The Hounds Below are striving to strike up that great American indie-pop ballad on almost every track of their debut full-length. The quartet heaps in all the right ingredients for a rock anthem (big booming drums, blazing guitars, rumbling bass grooves underneath urgent, arcing vocals), but this sustained marathon of impassioned balladry risks wearing the listener out and inevitably stumbles into uniformity of vibe. So by track six you can probably anticipate the recipe, an up-and-at-'em heaving of heart-on-the-sleeve lyricism sweetly weaving earworm melodies over a roil of guitars and thunderous drums. For lead singer-guitarist Jason Stollsteimer, this project started as a romanticized throwback to '50s crooners and pre-psychedelic guitar-pop, but the LP segues into a pure punch of post-'90s pop-rock fare. The production, the crisp tones and gooseflesh-building crescendos are all dazzling and sleek. But maybe too sleek — leaving you wanting just a bit more edge.
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